Tourism Matters

Along with other cuts in state programs, Governor Gregoire’s proposed 2011-2013 budget eliminates all funding for Washington State Tourism. As outlined, Washington State Tourism would cease operation in its current form by June 30, 2011. The legislature will convene in January to develop a final budget, but even so, things do not look very good for the state tourism office at this time.

Washington has languished near the bottom of state tourism funding for many years. In 2007, Governor Gregoire established the Washington State Tourism Commission which bolstered funding and led to a much-needed six-year strategic marketing plan to promote Washington as a premier travel destination.

However, even the governor’s steadfast support cannot save the state tourism program in the face Washington State’s deep revenue shortfalls.

Like many other states, Washington is facing unprecedented budget deficits. Elected officials are having to make hard choices as to what services to keep and what services to cut or eliminate. Cutting economic development activities like tourism may further worsen the economic situation. Tourism marketing activities generate taxes that support government programs, not to mention supports jobs for our citizens, further generating economic activity that results in more taxes for state and local governments. Each year, visitors spend more than $14 billion statewide. Tourism supports 147,000 jobs and produces nearly $1.0 billion in state and local taxes. Tourism is jobs, economic development and is an important part of our communities.

There may be those who think Washington State will be fine without a coordinated state tourism marketing effort, that visitors will come anyway. Research shows otherwise. In 1993, Colorado became the only state to eliminate its tourism marketing function, when it cut its $12 million promotional budget to zero. As a result, Colorado’s domestic market share plunged 30% within two years, representing a loss of over $1.4 billion in tourism revenue annually. Over time, the revenue loss increased to well over $2 billion yearly.  It took until the year 2000 for the industry to convince the legislature to reinstate funding with a modest $5 million budget. Research tracked the effectiveness of the state’s tourism campaigns over the next few years, and demonstrated an ROI of 12:1. In 2006, Governor Bill Owens signed a bill upping the tourism promotion budget to $19 million. By 2007, travel to Colorado rebounded to an all-time high, with 28 million visitors spending $9.8 billion. Here’s a short video that explains why marketing a destination  is important.

The past few months a group of industry and public officials have been discussing the creation of a new, more stable model for state tourism funding.  We are reviewing other state tourism models for a new approach. We are discussing how we should proceed from here, tell the story of why tourism matters and keep statewide marketing and promotional efforts on track. It’s a long road ahead, but if we do not travel it Washington will lose visitors,  jobs and economic vitality.

John Cooper

President and CEO, Yakima Valley Visitors and Convention Bureau


For more information on why Tourism Matters, click  here.

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Yakima River Canyon Scenic Byway Activities

The Yakima River Canyon contains some of the finest views, outstanding water recreation and unique terrain and wildlife in Central Washington. Connecting Ellensburg to the North and the Yakima Valley in the South, State Route (SR) 821 winds along the river through the canyon.  The canyon is  a treasure for residents, visitors and outdoor enthusiasts. Former Governor Daniel Evans led the effort to get SR 821 as Washington’s first Scenic Byway in 1968.

As part of that designation, a plan was developed to improve the corridor. Some forty years later many of the goals are still unmet while use of the river and corridor has grown, creating new challenges.  Through the leadership of the Cascade Land Conservancy, various community leaders, civic organizations and governmental agencies in Kittitas and Yakima Counties formally came together this week to form the Yakima River Canyon Scenic Byway Partnership. An immediate goal of the Partnership is to update the Corridor Management Plan for the route, which will help to identify various recreational, traffic safety and facility needs along the corridor.  In addition, an interpretive center is envisioned at Helen McCabe Park that would include displays, interpretive trails and other features that showcase the geology, wildlife and history of the canyon.

The Yakima Valley Visitors and Convention and Visitors Bureau (VCB)  will play an active role in the partnership. President and CEO John Cooper will be lead VCB person for the project.  While at the Bellingham Whatcom County Convention and Visitors Bureau he worked on the Scenic Corridor Management Plans for the Mt. Baker Scenic Byway (SR 542) and Chuckanut Drive (SR 11).

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